By Shannon Rapose
Kern Valley Sun
A group of nearly 20 people gathered to meet and greet Democratic Tulare City Councilmember Jose Sigala on Saturday, March 17, because he has decided to throw his hat into the ring and run for the 26th Assembly District of California seat currently occupied by Devon Mathis. The 26th District encompasses all of Inyo County, most of Tulare County and a small portion of Kern County, which just so happens to include the Kern River Valley.
After making conversation and introducing himself to most of the people that had gathered at Elise Modrovich’s house in Kernville, Sigala stood in front of the crowd and gave a brief introduction about his life and how he got to where he is today.
Being the son of immigrants and the first in his family to graduate high school, Sigala earned a degree in history from Berkley where he learned to advocate for community empowerment through safer neighborhoods, education, supporting small businesses and building sustainable infrastructure while protecting the environment. Sigala also has over 20 years of public policy and legislative experience from working in local government and California State Legislature.
Though a couple of his friends in politics asked him to run for Senate, Sigala decided to run for Assembly because he felt there are many major issues that need to be addressed, like poverty and access to adequate healthcare, which are prevalent in the Kern River Valley and across the 26th Assembly District.
Sigala also acknowledged the fact that the Kern River Valley still does not have access to broadband Internet, which could have a major impact on the local economy by making information and education more accessible, and he also recognized that the local hospital is struggling due, in part, to not having access to quality high speed Internet.
He stated that if he were to get elected, one of the first bills he would introduce would make sure that they continue to work with the utilities commission to make sure that there is funding for high speed Internet in the area and to try to push the project forward, since Mediacom has stalled for the past 9 years.
“You need someone who is willing to fight, advocate, and willing to sit down with the utilities commissioner and really push for it,” said Sigala. “I haven’t really seen Devon Mathis do that.”
Kernville resident Kathleen Creighton also added that the lack of high speed Internet is at the core of every issue that the Kern River Valley faces, emphasizing how it could dramatically change the local economy.
Sigala also discussed other issues that are important to him and the district such as addressing homelessness, mental health and protecting agricultural development.
Discussion about the Kern River Valley not being an incorporated area also came up and because each area is so diverse, the surrounding communities have not been able to unite on common ground on most issues and therefore have no real representation when it comes to resolving issues and addressing concerns. Sigala reflected back on his experience in LA County where district advisory committees were created and had representatives from different areas within the district come together to work on ideas and solutions, which is a model he would encourage and enhance existing ones in this area if he were to be elected.
“There’s a lot to tackle and I feel strongly about the experience that I bring to the table to work on tackling those issues,” said Sigala. “But for me, it’s always been about bringing communities together.”
Sigala is currently the only Democratic candidate, along with three republican candidates, running against Devon Mathis.
For more information, follow Sigala’s campaign for the California State Assembly 26th District on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Sigala4Assembly.